Multiculturality, Music, Spanish

Mi burrito sabanero

This song was composed for the holiday season in 1972 by the famed Venezuelan composer Hugo Blanco (known for the song Moliendo Café) and has become a Christmas favorite in much of Latin America. My wife Alicia Isabel Santacruz recorded this version some years ago, with a light arrangement by Jaime Chávez.

Lyrics (English below):

Con mi burrito sabanero voy camino de Belén
con mi burrito sabanero voy camino de Belén
Si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén
si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén
El cielito montañero ilumina mi sendero
El cielito montañero ilumina mi sendero
Si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén
Si me ven, si me ven voy camino de Belén
Tuqui tuqui tuqui tuqui, tuqui tuqui tuqui ta
Aapurate mi burrito que ya vamos a llegar
Tuqui tuqui tuqui tuqui, tuqui tuqui tuqui tu
Apúrate mi burrito vamos a ver a Jesús

With my little grassland donkey, I’m on my way to Bethlehem
With my little grassland donkey, I’m on my way to Bethlehem
If you see me, if you see me, I’m on my way to Bethlehem
If you see me, if you see me, I’m on my way to Bethlehem
The mountain sky lights my way
The mountain sky lights my way
If you see me, if you see me, I’m on my way to Bethlehem
If you see me, if you see me, I’m on my way to Bethlehem
Tuki tuki tuki tuki, tuki tuki tuki ta
Hurry my little donkey, we’re about to  arrive
Tuki tuki tuki tuki, tuki tuki tuki tu
Hurry my little donkey, we’re going to see Jesus

Language, Music, My life, Spanish, Translation

The loveliest version of the loveliest tango…

…is this recording made of El día que me quieras by my wife, Alicia Isabel Santacruz. I have scoured the internet, and have not found a better performance.

It was written by Alfredo Le Pera and Carlos Gardel, and featured in a movie by the same name in 1935, performed by Gardel. Alicia’s recording was released a couple of years ago but is not widely available.


Following are the lyrics, along with my translation:

Acaricia mi ensueño el suave murmullo de tu suspirar
Como ríe la vida si tus ojos negros me quieren mirar
Y si es mío el amparo de tu risa leve que es como un cantar
Ella aquieta mi herida. Todo, todo se olvida

El día que me quieras la rosa que engalana
Se vestirá de fiesta con su mejor color
Y al viento las campanas dirán que ya eres mía
Y locas las fontanas se contarán su amor

La noche que me quieras desde el azul del cielo
Las estrellas celosas nos mirarán pasar
Y un rayo misterioso hará nido en tu pelo
Luciernaga curiosa que verá que eres mi consuelo

The soft murmur of your sighing caresses my reverie
How life will laugh if your dark eyes choose to see me
And if the refuge of your light song-like laughter is mine
It will soothe my wound. All, all is forgotten
The day that you love me, the rose that adorns
will put on party clothes of its favorite color
And the bells will tell the wind that you are finally mine
The fountains, delirious, will tell each other of their love
The night that you love me, from the blue of the sky
the jealous stars will watch us go by
And a mysterious ray will make its nest in your hair
A curious firefly that will see that you are my solace


My life

Should I stay or should I go?

There is a farewell dinner happening at this moment for someone I don’t really know.

This happens all the time. I moved to Tampa 15 months ago, and still don’t know anyone other than my supervisor, a handful of fellow linguists, and a couple of the most regular clients. Besides the fact that I’m an introvert, I split my week between the Tampa and St. Petersburg offices, which also keeps me from spending much time with anyone.

People seem to be retiring every couple of weeks. I get e-mails constantly announcing where to contribute to farewell gifts, where dinners will be held, send farewell letters to so-and-so, don’t forget to sign the card.

Today it’s one of the cleaning ladies. She has been here for 30 years. I didn’t know her name before I saw the poster announcing her retirement. She probably knows me as “third cubicle, white dude with ponytail who occasionally thanks me in Spanish.”

I could go enjoy the potluck food, but that would mean rubbing shoulders with a bunch of other people that I don’t know, saying goodbye to yet another person I don’t know, and not eating the lunch my wife lovingly packed for me that I didn’t eat yesterday because we had a medical appointment.

I don’t know.

Multiculturality, My life

The joy of shared memories

One of the joys of life with Alicia has been the discovery of a trove of shared memories. We both grew up in Medellín in the 1960s and 1970s, and were exposed to the same slang, advertising, music, fads, and news. I have the habit of tossing out odd fragments of song lyrics when our conversation brings them to mind, but Alicia is rarely thrown for a loop:

“Encontraron a don Goyo, muertecito en el arroyo, amarrado con majagua, ahogado en el agua.”
“They found Mr. Goyo dead in the ravine, tied up with twine, drowned in the water.”

I remember dozens of advertising jingles and slogans from 30-50 years ago and quote them frequently, especially the truly weird ones: “Ay, profesor, ¡es que el pan con mayonesa Fruco es irresistible!” “Oh, teacher, the problem is that bread with Fruco mayonnaise is irresistible!”

Or this PSA from 1983, which I used to be able to imitate perfectly:
“Paisa. No fume bazuco, hombre. Le acaba el cerebro, lo enloquece… y lo mata.” “Homeboy. Don’t smoke crack, man. It’ll fry your brain, drive you crazy… and kill you.”*

Alicia remembers all these things, and they make her laugh when I repeat them. She seems to know the lyrics of every Spanish song ever sung, and even more jingles than I do. (She was the voice of several major jingles in the 1980s and 1990s.)

I get a kick out of talking with my brother for the same reason. Nearly all his memories of childhood and adolescence are the same as mine. The other day he said, “Hey, remember that time we decided to walk to the Seminary** and that dog came after us and you kicked it in the chops?”

“Yeah, I turned around and you were already a hundred yards down the road!

So we talked about Diane (who lived at the Seminary) and other kids we grew up with, and where they are now. Yesterday I texted him a line from a song I only ever heard about from him (can’t find it anywhere on the internet): “…y un bolillo dentro del cuuuuuubanito ¡sí señores!” (Put that one in Google Translate and see what comes up. I tried it just now and cackled because the translation is so totally off.)

Everyone from my generation remembers the song that went:
“Esa ballena llena que se tragó a Jonás, todavía vive, me lo dijó Jonás. ¿Sí? ¡No Jonás!” “That whale that swallowed Jonah still lives. Jonah told me so. Really? Don’t bullshit me!”

Unfortunately I haven’t found Sí no Jonás online either. But Don Goyo is around:

*Paisa refers to people from the state of Antioquia. Bazuco is a cheap cocaine paste that is even more destructive than crack.

**The Seminary grounds were the location of our school, and was also where Diane lived, on whom we both had a crush. It was four miles from our house, and we usually took the bus, but that day we decided to hoof it.

My life

Bluetoothing music from my phone

This morning when I got in my new car, I turned up the volume on the radio to look for a station, and discovered that it was playing the music I have stored on my phone, in random order. So I listened to that instead of the radio. This is what is on my phone:

Alicia Isabel Santacruz: A mis amigos (My wife! Her first album, produced in 1983)

Alicia Isabel Santacruz: Migas de silencio (Her second album, from about 1988. The weird thing is that the title song is about her. The songwriter had a crush on her for years and finally realized nothing would come of it, so he wrote a goodbye song I translated here on my Xanga site a couple of years ago. He’s 30-some years older than she is.)

Carlos Vives: miscellaneous songs (Great music from Colombia’s north coast, mostly modernized vallenato)

Chris Rea: The Best of Chris Rea (Fool If You Think It’s Over is on this one, but the ones I really like are The Road To Hell, Auberge, and Going Fishing)

Crosby, Stills & Nash: CSN

Juan Fernando Fonseca: Ilusión (More lively modernized vallenato music)

José Luis Perales: 30 grandes éxitos (If I could be a singer, I’d be this guy. Lovely ballads)

Los Loney Boys: Los Lonely Boys (Texican rock and roll)

The Monkees: The Birds, the Bees, and the Monkees (Mostly obscure songs and alternate takes)

Coco Montoya: The Essential Coco Montoya (Bluesy rock)

The Moody Blues: Seventh Sojourn (One of the great albums of all time. No flaws)

Willie Nelson: Willie and Family Live

Colombia, Music, My life

One Voice, One Woman

Alicia just called to say her sister Angela has a sore throat and wants me to do a lot of singing tonight at the restaurant so she won’t have to do as much.

“Why don’t you sing? You’re the professional,” I said.

“I want to stay home and hang Christmas lights,” she said.

My wife is weird. She’s also the most wonderful woman I’ve ever known. And she’s nuts about Christmas.

So it looks like I’ll be singing everything Angela and I have ever practiced, a hodgepodge from Jairo, Sting, Francis Cabrel, Bread, Simon & Garfunkel, Carlos Vives, Piero, Roberto Carlos, Joan Manuel Serrat. I wish we had time to work up Neil Diamond’s Solitary Man and Mary Black’s No Frontiers, but they’ll have to wait.

I sang a couple of songs last week. My current favorite is Sting’s Until. I was weak on the first verse (I had been eating patacones) but the second verse sounded really good, thanks in part to the better sound system Angela acquired. It’s much easier to sing well when you can hear yourself.

At some point I want to write a blogpost on recycled love songs. But I don’t know if it’s a good idea.

As I said, Alicia is nuts about Christmas. I’ve had to bite my tongue when she shows me some of the decor she wants to get. Clear glass Christmas trees and manger scenes illuminated with lights that change color do nothing for me. But if I wait until we can find decor that we agree on, it’ll be years before the house is anywhere close to decorated, because 98% of what is out there is either tacky or beyond our budget.

So I suppress my inner Grinch and say, “Fine.” Unless it’s something I really can’t stand.

I’ve made three business trips to Panama City, FL, in the past three weeks. When I was coming back Wednesday afternoon, my boarding pass said I would be leaving from Gate 3. The monitor overhead said it was Gate 4. The actual gate turned out to be 5.

The Delta self-service machine said my flight was overbooked, and asked if I wanted to give up my seat in exchange for a voucher worth (check one) $50, $75, $100, $125, or fill in an amount. I said I would do it for $400. (Can you believe it costs $475 to fly Delta from Panama City to Tampa? It’s only 400 miles. But you have to stop over in Atlanta or Nashville.)

They didn’t call on me to give up my seat. Cheapskates.

Alicia leaves Monday for Colombia. She has a concert Thanksgiving Day and another December 6. I’ll be flying down just before Thanksgiving and will be there just a week and a half. Fortunately all this travel to Panama City has given me a little comp time.

The Thanksgiving Day concert is called something like “Una voz, una mujer” (“One voice, one woman”) and is in honor of Alicia herself, who just retired from the Universidad de Antioquia. They will be launching her latest album (same name), which she recorded just before our wedding last year. (I hope they have it ready in time. They were throwing together the cover design and notes just a couple of weeks ago.)

Her sister Angela and niece Sara Elisa are going along, and will also sing in the concert.

Alicia’s album was put together with songs for which the university symphonic band already had arrangements, because the budget was tight. Alicia is a mezzo-soprano, but some of the songs are arranged for soprano, and one or two for tenor. She did an amazing job (recorded all the vocals in just eight hours), but there’s no way she would perform something out of her range in a concert. So her sister and niece (both sopranos) and a male vocalist will do some of the singing.

Well, my workday is over, and I have to pick up Alicia at the mall on the way home. I hope you all have a great weekend.


Pablo Milanés is one of Cuba’s most outstanding musicians. This song is a sweet, heart-piercing rumination about friends who left the island for brighter futures.

Here is my translation of the lyrics:

Where are the friends I had yesterday?
What became of them?
What happened?
Where did they go?
I feel so sad.

Where are they?
Yesterday Pepe was spotted over there,
Juan over here,
Hildita yonder,
and Vladimir and Tomás way over there.

That Pepe, what a carpenter!
Juan, the electronics whiz, invented
more than one device to squeeze the enemy.
Hildita the orchestra director, what a star!
Vladimir the businessman,
who hassled me so many times for being liberal.
And Tomás, the painter
of those gorgeous countrysides that aren’t there anymore.

Where are they?
I want to see them so I’ll know
that I’m human
that I live and feel for my siblings
and they for me.

Wherever they are,
here’s a greeting to tell them
that I’ve loved them
and that I’ve desired
more than once
to see them
die here with me.